Patient Confidentiality and Teenagers: Information for Teens and Their Parents
In Connecticut, patients who are minors are to be involved as much as possible in decisions regarding their own medical care, as long as they have enough information to enable an intelligent choice. In addition, minors in Connecticut have certain confidentiality rights when it comes to reproductive healthcare.
At the same time, parents and legal guardians also have certain rights, especially when it comes to your safety. It’s a good idea to know where the line is drawn between the patients’ rights and parents’ rights — and it’s also good to know where that line can become blurry.
Regardless of age, no patient should ever be afraid to discuss reproductive issues with their healthcare provider. Here are a few questions and answers that may help patients and their parents understand how reproductive confidentiality works in Connecticut.
Do my parents have to know that I’m seeking reproductive health services?
In most cases, no. There is no law that requires parents to be notified that their child has obtained most reproductive health services. A healthcare provider may be ethically justified in telling the parents if the minor faces a serious health threat, but this situation falls outside state law and is a gray area.
Another gray area is when the reproductive healthcare services involve an invasive medical procedure. For example, while a pregnancy test (and its results), STD treatment, or even an abortion can be done without parental knowledge or consent, an amniocentesis (extracting and sampling of the fluid that surrounds an unborn fetus to check for birth defects or infections) or an epidural (injection of pain-blockers near the spine, often used during childbirth) could be viewed as procedures that require parental consent.
In only certain situations must confidentiality be broken: For minors less than 13 years of age, healthcare providers must report sexual activity (including a request for birth control) to child welfare authorities. The same goes for minors 13 and up, if the healthcare provider believes abuse, neglect or imminent risk of harm has occurred.
If you’re not sure about how all this applies to your own situation, just ask your healthcare provider. He or she can answer nearly anything relating to your reproductive health without being required to report anything to your parents.
Who has to pay for these services?
If a minor has requested that her parents not be contacted, then she is liable for all costs and expenses related to diagnosis and treatment.
Do I need my parents’ permission to obtain birth control?
No. Any person of any age can obtain birth control in Connecticut without parental consent.
Will my parents be told if I am being tested/treated for a sexually transmitted infection?
In most cases, no. If you’re facing a serious health threat, and there is reason to believe that your parents will be helpful and understanding, your healthcare provider may choose to notify your parents.
Do my parents have access to my medical records in your office?
In Connecticut, parents have the right to obtain their child’s medical records until the child turns 18.
However, if you request that certain medical records be unavailable to your parents (or anyone else), and your healthcare provider agrees, you have a good chance of restricting access to your records.